It was a momentous occasion, the Opening Ceremony of the ICC World Cup 2011 (or was it 2001?!@#) last Thursday week, the likes of which the world has not seen before. The spectacle unravelled before our very eyes had our jaws distanced on many a moment. It was one of the proudest hours of this country, beaten, thrashed, but arisen every time.
As the history of the nation unfolded in an occasionally sombre collage of dance, motif, colour, light and sound a wave of realisation made us weep in silence, the tears betraying our brave veil. This was why they were riddled by bullets in 1952, this was why they were gunned down in 1969, and this was why they were made homeless, raped and slaughtered in 1971. They are why today we were singing in Bangla, dazzling the world by Bangla.
While we agree with many recent observations of the opposition, including that of price rise, law and order, power shortage, killing at the border, extrajudicial deaths (not that they have given any reason to believe that they can do better or have done), at least two matters they raised of the night against the government must be rebuffed: no history of this nation is complete without Bangabandhu or his 7 March speech (a 10-sec clip was shown); and the giant alien 'boat' was part of the Sri Lankan presentation, designed by them and conceived by them. By that count, no one in the jubilant crowd of mixed political ideology or in front of their TV around the world considered the dozens of sheaves of paddy as being flaunted as the election symbol of any political party. Bangabandhu, the boat, the sheaves of paddy, the doyel, the hilsa, and such other national icons belong to every Bangalee, every Bangladeshi.
The speeches that day were the most neglected aspects of the planners. Whereas at the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup and the United Nations speeches in the mother tongue are delivered by the dignitaries, the 17th day in the month of International Mother Language was the apt opportunity to promote Bangla to the world as the proposed official dialect of the UN. For the benefit of the non-Bangla audience a following translated brief in English would have been more appropriate.
The earth-shaking opening (the pundits have for long been predicting one) shall remain memorable for many reasons, more so because it shall retain its status as a red-letter day in our nation's chequered history.
The cause for shedding tears that day was several and varied:
I cried seeing elected and appointed VIPs and their family (not necessarily immediate) driving at snail's pace in air-conditioned limousines of semi-dark windows past long queues of common citizens, men, women and children, most of who had to walk for two to three hours to the security check points, clearly inadequate for the event.
I cried as groups of people, young and old, chanted cheers of happiness all around the Bangabandhu Stadium waving flags and festoons, and yet they did not have tickets to the opening; that mattered naught for they too were the proud hosts of a world cup.
I cried watching the tourism video 'Beautiful Bangladesh School of life' because it shows why we have sacrificed so much for our land and our language.
I cried listening to the speech of the BCB president because here he was demanding publicly for a one-lakh capacity cricket stadium whereas he should have done that two years back the day he found out we were to host the world cup.
I cried at the sight of the rickshaw-pullers for too long have they carried the burden of this nation and seldom have we recognised their contribution to our economy and the environment.
I cried as gatekeepers and security compelled ticket holders to throw away (small) national flags attached to plastic straws; they lay huddled on the street at their feet.
I cried at the sheer discipline of our people and commendable organisers, as there were no 'extra' spectators crowding the vacant aisles, a sight possible only because of ticket-only entry and no sale of additional tickets.
I cried because contrary to early panicky emails, our culture and artistes were well represented, the most appreciable part perhaps being our Sabina, Mumtaz and Runa singing medleys of three of their favourite numbers instead of one full song each.
I cried because the ceremony and the programme went flawless from the first announcement till the acknowledgement of the mass cast of mainly students, who did us proud.
I cried again and again for reasons several and varied.
I cried because I got a ticket.
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